Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Tribal Sports Meet 2017, a series of athletic events to promote sports among tribals in Odisha, was inaugurated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik through video conferencing at the State Secretariat today.

The Sports Meet, open for players from 14 years to 35 years of age; started today across the State. Various competitions including individual and team sports events were kicked off at 119 tribal blocks and 195 non-tribal blocks of the State.

Individual sports such as running and archery and team sports like football, hockey, kabaddi, kho kho and volleyball are included in the meet.

The competition is being held in Sub-Junior, Junior and Senior categories. The district level events will start in January 2018 followed by State level events in February. The government will give a total cash reward of Rs 1.8 crore to the winners. While a cash reward of Rs 3,61,200 will be given to winners in each district, winners at state-level will receive a total cash reward of Rs 5,55,600.

"I am delighted to have inaugurated the tribal sports mission today. This is a pioneering effort of the State government. I am sure the tribal children will do very well," said Patnaik after the inauguration.

"Odisha is the first State in the country to take such an initiative so we expect a bright future for all the children who will participate in the competitions," said Odisha Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Chandra Sarathi Behera.

This step of the State government was welcomed by some athletes, but organising such an event after 17 years of rule has raised suspicion of the opposition. After tribal council, BJD targeting tribal youths and students of the State is vote bank politics, alleged BJP.

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"Sports events are being organised in every block among the tribals and non-tribals. The intention of an independent event is just an attempt to gather votes. There is no other intention of the ruling party and the tribals in Odisha will not be misled by it," said BJP MLA, Pradeep Purohit.

"As the government is focusing on sports, I will welcome the step. They are going to do something for the tribal people. But the event should not be politicised," said Olympian Lazarus Barla.